A friends recent experience with her adult special needs son’s hospitalization has made me realize just how important it is to have a family member serve as a patient advocate in the room 24/7. Hospitals are busy places and it is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of meeting patients needs. Doctors are coming and going, technicians are running tests, lab workers must draw blood, nurses are administering medications and all of this busy work needs someone to co-ordinate and share information with staff and family members. If your special needs loved one has problems understanding or communicating…this can be a problem.
Things can change pretty quickly when there is a medical emergency or illness. It is important to receive the best care to have up to date information for both the staff and the family members. How often do medications get changed, or medical devices need to be removed or hooked back up during a hospital stay? Providing personal care that your loved one may not want from the medical staff can mean more co-operation from your special needs patient. Having a family advocate in the room can help ease discomfort if your patient is paired with a roommate who is NOT special needs. These are all issues many people have not thought about.
Keeping a small notebook by the bed to write down any changes that occur during a change in staff shifts can be critical to making sure that your loved one receives the best care by making sure that everyone is on the same page. You as the family member patient advocate knows your loved one the best. You know what is normal for that person. You know how they communicate, how they act, how well they understand questions and instructions…the hospital staff needs your input.
Because hospital stays can be lengthy…it is wise to have 2 or 3 people who are willing to rotate with you that you trust to stay in the room while your loved one is hospitalized. This means that extra eyes and ears are available when the doctors, nurses, aides or technicians come in to discuss care with your patient. Plan ahead and discuss these issues with other family members or trusted friends who have a good relationship with the patient and are willing to stand guard over them while they must be hospitalized…you won’t regret it.
There are things you can do to help out the staff and make your special needs loved one more comfortable. Just being there for moral support is important. Keeping a trusted loved one nearby can help to keep the patient calm and co-operative when change occurs. Take along hand-held video games, or stuffed animals or books or movies…anything that you know will help the hospital room to be as familiar and comfortable as possible. As I said, you know your patient best…you know what works for them…maybe it is a certain kind of music that they like or that brings them comfort.
Whatever you can do to reduce stress and stain will help your loved one to heal faster and get them back into their comfort zone as soon as possible. Do you have suggestions for what works for you?